The faces are new, the leaders are new, but it seems like the new installment of the Florida Legislature will be more of the same.
With the nine-week session opening up for business on March 5, Republican Senate majority leader Don Gaetz and Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford, the youngest speaker in the state's history, have both agreed that the focus in Tallahassee this year should be on more important issues like the budget, education, health care and property insurance. Weatherford told the Associated Press:
Everybody's making sacrifices to be here. We're not up (in Tallahassee) to mess around. We're here to make a difference.
Senate leader Gaetz also decided not to put on rose-colored glasses when explaining the new challenge that faces lawmakers in Tallahassee this year to the AP. Gaetz said:
I'm not prepared to put on rose-colored glasses about the budget. I'm certainly not prepared to talk about extra money, any extra money, until we see what happens in Washington with (the) sequester.
Gaetz also gave in insight into how Tallahassee will govern the state this year. He wants to put an end to what he calls "jokes" that get passed in the legislature. There were too many "joke" bills that were passed into law in the past couple of years and Gaetz told the AP that he wants Tallahassee to start passing more meaningful laws. Gaetz said:
When the Legislature makes a law it's often a joke. The problem is when the Legislature makes a joke, it's the law. We make the jokes. We pass bills that don't need to pass.
Democrats and Republicans may have their political battles this year over the "Stand Your Ground" law and tax reform, but one thing that Republicans and Democrats may have seem to find unity on is the problems in Gov. Rick Scott's budget. One of those question marks is his plan to offer a $2,500 across-the-board pay raise to school teachers and a one-time bonus to state employees. Republicans are questioning how the state will pay for the bonuses while Democrats are charging that Scott is just trying to pander to voters for his re-election bid in 2014.
Despite losing their super-majority, the Republicans still has control over both chambers of the state legislature and can easily move bills through.